Local News

Two donations total $600K for Sitka building improvements

Library Director Sarah Bell works in her crowded office at Kettleson Memorial Library, in this September 2012 file photo. Her office has become defacto storage for a lot of equipment, something an upcoming expansion of the library aims to correct.

Kettleson Memorial Library and the Sitka Sound Science Center are the recipients of hundreds of thousands of dollars … from two separate donors.

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Kettleson Director Sarah Bell got a phone call just before Christmas.

“They said, ‘We are people who don’t shop at fancy stores, we aren’t people who have money. We’re not even sure how to give this away but this is what we are thrilled to have discovered we have … to give,’” she said.

The “we” Bell is talking about are members of the John J. and Eleanor A. Brust family. And what they had to give was $400,000.

“We all say ‘Oh boy, if I got a bunch of money, I’d write a great big check.’ I wonder how many of us would do that?” Bell said. “And they are doing that.”

The money will be used to help fund the library’s expansion. The building is set to grow by about 60 percent.

John Brust worked in Alaska during World War II. He helped build the Alcan Highway. His wife, Eleanor, became a librarian in her mid-forties and retired just before age 81.

“So, when they heard about the library expansion program here, they decided their contribution in a larger city wouldn’t be as significant, but here, it makes a huge difference for us,” Bell said.

Just how much of a difference? Here are the numbers:

Project cost: $6.2 million (estimated)
In the bank: $5.7 million (state grant)
Left to raise: $500,000

This donation gets the library 80 percent of the way to its fund-raising goal.

The library’s expansion will include a larger area for children, a new section for young adults, along with meeting rooms, computer facilities and a historical document research area. It’s due to begin sometime this year.

But here’s the thing: The library is not the only Sitka organization to receive a big check recently.

The Sitka Sound Science Center just received $200,000 to help improve the Sage building, where its operations are based.

“It’s a big deal,” said Lisa Busch, executive director of the science center. “We’re thrilled on several levels: One, it’s really going to help us move forward and get this first phase funded and done. We’re really excited about that. And we’re thrilled to have the support of DIPAC.”

DIPAC stands for Douglas Island Pink and Chum, Inc. It’s the Juneau-based fisheries enhancement organization that wrote the check.

Busch says the organization represents a wide swath of the commercial fishing industry, and that its donation is a vote of confidence in the work being done at the science center. That includes hatchery operations, research and aquaculture training programs.

Specifically, the $200,000 donation will support the first phase of a three-phase renovation.

“I would call this phase one kind of the very basic building function stage,” she said. “If you don’t have a working roof, and you’re bleeding money with heat leaving the windows and that sort of thing, you can’t go much further.”

The total renovation of the Sage Building will cost almost $4 million.

 

 

 

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